There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Transit of Lamma: Part 2 of Hong Kong and Macau

In 2004, on the first full day of our very first visit to Hong Kong we took the Peak Tram to the top of the island and walked round Victoria Peak. We shall do it again this week. We had excellent views over Kowloon and the harbour and, as we moved round, of some of the ‘outer islands’, the huge bulk of Lantau – far bigger than Hong Kong Island – lurking in the misty distance. Further round,  little Chung Chau, may not have been visible, but we visited in 2005 and again in 2010 lured by the seafood restaurants lining the dock. Closer was Lamma Island, its flat northern end dominated by a huge coal-fired power station. ‘I don’t think we’ll bother going there,’ we said. We took no photograph, 2004 was our last year using film and we did not waste film on ugly things, but the map below gives an idea of how these places are arranged – and you can use your imagination for the rest.

Hong Kong
Thanks to my friends at TravelChinaGuide who so ably organised our 2005, 2010 and 2013 visits
Shortly after their marriage and long before we knew them, our friends Brian and Hilary took up teaching appointments in Hong Kong. They stayed for 20 years, returning to England with their two Hong Kong born children in the early 90s. For the next 15 years Brian and I taught mathematics in adjacent classrooms, shared an office and discovered we had interests in common: walking in the countryside (Brian features in most of the walking posts on this blog), good food, fine wine and malt whisky (always quality, never quantity, we are unfailingly abstemious) and travel.
Brian and Hilary did not return to Hong Kong for some years, but once they were retired and both their (now adult) children had returned there to live, visits became regular.

We had long planned to meet up in Hong Kong and enjoy their insider’s view, and this year the plan finally came to fruition. The first trip came as a surprise. ‘Lamma Island,’ Brian emailed. ‘Meet you 11.30 at Yung Shue Wan.’ Yung Shue Wan is right beside the power station.

Lamma Island, Yung Shue Wan and the power station can be seen in the north east of the island
They would take a ferry from Aberdeen on the south side of Hong Kong Island (near Ap Lei Chau on the top map) while we would travel from the outer island ferry terminal at Central. Our quickest route was to hop on the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) at nearby Jordan Station, hurtle under the harbour to Central Station and walk to the ferry terminal. But we had ample time, so why spend a pleasant morning grubbing about in the bowels of the earth?

Like yesterday evening we strolled down Nathan Road, this time turning right at the bottom past the Peninsula Hotel. The Peninsula has been offering ‘the best of Eastern and Western hospitality in an atmosphere of unmatched classical grandeur and timeless elegance’ (their web site claims) since the 1920s. Grandeur and elegance do not come cheap.

Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon

From the tip of the Kowloon peninsula we took the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island, at just over a kilometre one of the world’s greatest short journeys.
Star Ferry Dock, Kowloon
Hong Kong is an unsentimental city, anything no longer paying its way is ruthlessly discarded for something newer, bigger, shinier. But there are exceptions. With six tunnels, three road, three rail connecting Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, the Star Ferry, popular with tourists, but ignored by locals in a hurry is no longer necessary. And does it make money? With a regular fare of HK$2.20 (25p), I doubt it, but we did not pay the regular, or indeed any, fare.
On the Star Ferry, Hong Kong
Octopus cards, like London’s Oyster but with more legs, are the best way to pay for public transport. With an Elder Octopus card, available to over 65s, residents and tourists alike, bus, MTR and ferry fares are a flat HK$2, except the Star Ferry, which is free. Hilary deserves the credit for discovering this and we had taken her advice and acquired cards while passing through the airport yesterday.
Passing the ferry going the other way, Star Ferry, Hong Kong
The Star Ferry dock is adjacent to the Outer Islands Piers and after a short walk and a brief wait, we were on our way to Yung Shue Wan (lit: Banyan Bay).
Leaving the Outer Island ferry terminus
Modern catamarans lack the romance of the old-style ferries but are swift and efficient, our journey taking just 20 minutes.

With no cars, and no buildings allowed above three storeys our first impression of Lamma was of a peacefulness entirely alien to Kowloon or Central.

The island is noted for having many artists and musicians among its 6,000+ residents and Yung Shue Wan, a pleasant little fishing town and by far the largest settlement, is also home to many middle-class commuters and European expatriates. We did not even notice the power station as we sat in a small park and waited for Brian and Hilary, who arrived a few minutes later on the Aberdeen ferry.

Lynne arrives at Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island
Despite Yung Shue Wan’s wealth of sea food restaurants we did not linger, but set off south...

Leaving Yung Shue Wan with Brian and Hilary
…walking a track which dipped to the coast where we paused for a roasted bean in a beach side cafĂ©. As we continued the path rose gently. The landscaping meant we had seen little of the power station, but we could not avoid it completely.

The power station, Lamma Island
The path rose to cross the spine of the island, traversing countryside that felt almost wild, a new Hong Kong experience for us.

Lynne and Hilary nearing the top of pass, Lamma Island

Once over the pass we could look across to the south side of Hong Kong Island…

Looking over to Hong Kong from Lamma
 …and, a little further on, down into Sok Kwu Wan and the largest fish farming site in Hong Kong.

Sok Kwu Wan and its Fish Farms

Descending to sea level we rounded the end of the bay and entered the town, which consists largely of seafood restaurants on platforms over the water. The 5km ‘transit of Lamma’, a very pleasant and easy walk at a gentle pace had taken a little over an hour and a half, including coffee stop. It was now past 2 o’clock and I was not alone in feeling ready for my lunch.
Sok Kwu Wan from the end of the bay
(the distant high rises are, I think, on Ap Lei Chau an island so close to Hong Kong you can walk over a bridge to it)

We selected a restaurant and ordered the seafood feast; scallops in their shells with glass noodles and breadcrumbs, prawns, clams in black bean sauce, fried cuttlefish rings, Chinese vegetables and fried rice were washed down with several bottles of beer. It was as fresh as it should be in such a location and all expertly cooked.

Feeling well fed and contented, we left the restaurant and walked past the fishing harbour to the ferry piers.
Fishing harbour, Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island

We intended to take a ferry back to Aberdeen and then walk to Brian and Hilary’s daughter’s nearby apartment. Sok Kwu Wan ferry port was not as sophisticated or well signed as its Central equivalent and we found ourselves standing on one pier, watching the Aberdeen ferry depart from the next. Ferries are not frequent, so we took the next one to Central.
Back in Central there was no point in going all the way across the island just to come back, so we confirmed tomorrow’s meeting place for our two-day jaunt to Macau, said goodbye to Brian and Hilary and strolled back to the Star Ferry.
At this point I must apologise for my lack of diligence with the camera. Not only did I (untypically) fail to photograph the food, we also spent the day with old friends and the only pictures I have of them are of their backsides. So, a ‘sorry’ to Brian and Hilary and to prove they are fully rounded three dimensional individuals, here is a front elevation, taken in the less exotic, though still very pleasant, surroundings of the Lake District.
Brian and Hilaru (and Lynne) front elevation, somewhere near Elterwater, 2012
Later we went for a stroll to purchase some peanuts and to price a bottle of Famous Grouse I had spotted in a small shop in Woo Sung Street. They want just over HK£100 (£11) so I bought it.
Unsurprisingly we were not very hungry in the evening, but fancied something small. As all Chinese dishes are shared, we decided to share a single dish and returned (yet again) to Woo Sung Street and its Temporary Cooked Food Hawker Bazaar.
The endearingly scruffy Woo Sung Street food hawkers bazaar as it appears in daylight
Always game to try something new, we chose goose intestines (we try these things so you don't have to). The intestines themselves, like an overly al dente non-vegetarian spaghetti, were forgettable, their purpose presumably to add cheap protein to an otherwise vegetarian dish, but the sauce and vegetables made it all worthwhile.

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